Group A is perhaps one of the less anticipated sections of Euro 2012 but this does not make it any easier to predict the outcome.
The co-hosts will be hoping to make their nation proud as they take on Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic in Group A. With the honour of being tournament hosts they are also afforded automatic qualification for the Championships. They kick off the tournament and their campaign in Warsaw against Greece in a game which could set the tone for Group A. Their second match is played in the same stadium against Russia before travelling to Wroclaw for their final group game against Czech Republic.
The current crop of players will be looking to improve upon their last outing in major championships as they failed to get out of the group stages in Euro 2008. Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski is expected to provide their biggest goal threat whilst his club team mate and national team captain Jakub Blaszcykowski will be looking to control the tempo of the game from the midfield. Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is likely to start in goals and will be looking to continue his impressive club form during the tournament.
The Greek national side will be hoping to deflect the country’s attention away from the economic trouble at home as they travel to Poland and Ukraine to play in Euro 2012. They were surprise winners in 2004 as they defeated hosts Portugal in the final. Prior to Euro 2004 they were outsiders to win the tournament and eight years on they are in a similar position. It is unlikely that they will be able to replicate their success in Portugal however their performances during qualification for the tournament suggest they may be able to cause a few upsets.
Midfielder Giorgos Karagounis is one of the few players remaining from the successful Euro 2004 squad. The 35 year old midfielder will be looking to emulate his performances from eight years ago when he was a key player for Greece scoring the first goal of the tournament in their victory over hosts Portugal. Celtic striker Georgios Samaras will be another key player for the Greeks as they look to progress from a section where any team could qualify.
Russia will be heading into the opening stages of the tournament full of confidence and will look to qualify convincingly for the quarter finals. Boasting the most experienced squad in the group, the Russian side will be hoping that the players continue their impressive club form during the championships. Manager Dick Advocaat will be departing his role as manager following the tournament and will be looking for a successful tournament. After reaching the semi finals of Euro 2008, they are regarded as a much improved footballing nation and could be one of the dark horses for the tournament.
Their squad boasts a number of household names from top European clubs including Zenit St. Petersburg’s Andriy Arshavin and Igor Denisov, Lokomotiv Moscow’s Roman Pavlyuchenko and Anzhi’s Yuri Zhirkov. With a wealth of talent at Advocaat’s disposal they should manage to qualify from what is a difficult group.
The Czech Republic reached Euro 2012 after a long qualification battle. They finished second in their qualification group, securing their spot in the play offs in the final round of matches. In the play offs they faced Montenegro and convincingly brushed them aside winning 3-0 on aggregate. Their best performance since reaching the final of the 1996 tournament was back in 2004 when they were defeated by this year’s group rivals Greece in the semi final. That result was a shock and no doubt this year Michel Bilek’s side will be looking to avenge that surprise defeat.
In a group with Greece, Poland and Russia, Bilek’s side will like their chances of qualification. The Náro?ák will be hoping that their key players step up to the mark and perform to the best of their ability. At the heart of their midfield will stand Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky, the Czech’s will expect him to pull the strings and dictate the play during the games. Former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Milan Baros will lead the line for the team and his form in front of goal will be key to their progress. Goalkeeper Petr Cech will be another key member of the team aiming to build upon his impressive club performances following their Champions League Final victory.
08/06/12 17:00 Poland v Greece
08/06/12 19:45 Russia v Czech Republic
12/06/12 17:00 Greece v Czech Republic
12/06/12 19:45 Poland v Russia
16/06/12 19:45 Greece v Russia
16/06/12 19:45 Czech Republic v Poland
Predicted final standings
2. Czech Republic